The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations' scientific body for assessing climate change. The objective of the IPCC is to provide scientific reports to the world's policy makers so they can understand the risks of climate change and implement potential solutions. According to IPCC, "189 countries, nearly every nation on Earth, have adopted the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement goals of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)" and "pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit)."
With the adoption of that goal, the IPCC developed the Special Report Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees Celsius in 2018. The report assesses the impacts of the world warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius and identifies policies that could help nations limit the rise to within 1.5 degrees Celsius.
According to IPCC authors, achieving this goal will require deep reductions in carbon emissions and rapidly removing carbon from the atmosphere. To reduce emissions the authors recommend lowering energy demand and expanding clean energy technology, such as decarbonizing energy production and electrifying energy use. To capture carbon, the authors recommend expanding tree planting and agricultural practices that pull carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soil.
- assist the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy to help the state adapt to and mitigate climate change; and
- assist the new Task Force on Climate Change in developing recommendations for addressing climate change.
Executive Order 38 also tasked the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy with developing Wisconsin's first Clean Energy Plan, released in 2022. In 2023, the office published the Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan Progress Report.
In response to these executive orders, the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI), led by the UW Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and DNR, developed the following reports:
- WICCI Report to the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change: Strategies to Improve Wisconsin's Climate Resilience and Readiness (2020); and
- WICCI 2021 Assessment Report: Wisconsin's Changing Climate
These reports provide updated climate science information and potential approaches for addressing climate change impacts in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of states committed to meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goals. DNR is working with colleagues in Minnesota and Michigan on initiatives to promote forestry practices for carbon sequestration and other natural working lands policy concepts.
At least 34 states have developed statewide climate mitigation and/or adaptation plans or recommendations to address climate change. At least eight states lead the way in this work, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington State.
As detailed in State Approaches to Climate Change Planning, states often take a comprehensive approach to addressing climate change, making changes in a number of sectors, such as public health, energy, transportation, climate finance, natural and working lands, and green jobs. For examples, see Seven States’ Climate Action Planning.
For an overview of Wisconsin's energy landscape, see Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Policies.
Many local governments in the state have been leading the charge to cleaner energy and sustainability. For instance, 148 communities have taken the 25 x 25 pledge, committing to generating 25 percent of their energy from local renewable sources by 2025. In addition, 11 mayors have joined Climate Mayors, committing their cities to meeting the Paris goals. Ten other cities have sustainability commissions. Find more information at Climate Leadership by Wisconsin Local Governments.
The Center for Rural Communities at Northland College developed the Climate Change Adaption Planning Guide to assist cities, counties, tribes, and planning commissions and councils in the Chequamegon Bay Area. The guide identifies a.) climate change trends; b.) priority areas (i.e., protect drinking water, prevent road washouts, mitigate flood hazards and prepare for variable tourism and recreational conditions; and c.) recommendations for taking action.
In 2020, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission warned that "climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and its ability to sustain the U.S. economy." The escalating frequency of extreme weather poses a threat to Wisconsin's $18 billion insurance industry11. Across the country, insurance company payouts for natural disasters between 2017 and 2018 was $130.3 billion12. More than half of insurance companies surveyed indicate that climate change is likely to have a high or extremely high impact on coverage and underwriting assumptions.
At the same time, Wisconsin utilities report that the market and investor and consumer demand are driving the transition of our power grid to cleaner, renewable energy. In 2018, Xcel Energy, serving 250,000 customers in western Wisconsin, was the first utility in the country to commit to generating all of its energy from renewable sources. Today all of Wisconsin’s utilities are making commitments to produce greener energy and report that wind and utility solar energy sources are now cost-effective options for their customers13. In the last decade, the cost to build wind energy has dropped by 70 percent and solar by 89 percent.
Retail and manufacturers are also taking steps to address climate change. Kohl Corporation, a Fortune 500 business based in Wisconsin, set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Kohl's owned operations by 50 percent by 2025 (from 2014 baseline levels). They have added 52 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity at their 1,158 locations and support low-carbon transition systems through expansion of their existing 96 electric car charging stations.
In 2008, Kohler Corporation, based in Sheboygan Falls adopted a zero-carbon energy goal by 2035. The company has also purchased 100 MW of wind energy to offset all their energy emissions in the U.S. and Canada.
In 1996, the nonprofit organization Winrock International established the American Carbon Registry, now known just as ACR, the first on-line greenhouse gas emission tracking system, or carbon crediting program, in the world. The organization has evolved into a global carbon crediting program involved in California’s cap-and-trade market, Washington State’s cap-and-invest market, Colorado’s methane recovery market, and more. ACR lists a number of Wisconsin businesses participating in carbon credit programs. These projects have included farms creating renewable energy from livestock waste, initiatives to improve forest management (storing carbon in soil and trees), and transportation or fleet efficiency initiatives.
12 Deloitte Center for Financial https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/financial-services/articles/insurance-companies-climate-change-risk.html
14 2020 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. American Family Insurance. Page 16.